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Feedback methods that don't lead you down the garden path - Comments

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Feedback methods that don't lead you down the garden path

Posted 25 July 2011, 9:00 AM
One hard lesson I've learnt at ocProducts is to never rely on unsolicited user feedback to gauge and drive product development. This post will explain the issues, and detail better feedback methods.

Anyone who looks at the forums will see I reply to all kinds of things (and that I've built up a reputation for it), and quite often I mention I'll make a change in the next version if someone finds a usability…

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Hmm, what to make of this?

I'm damned if I report a bug, and damned if I don't.

That as a software company we have to take feedback both from people who actively give it, and we have to actively seek it from people who don't – and then make business decisions on all this.

To be clear, obviously feedback is far more likely to be consider if it's given to us, as otherwise we may be in the dark.

However this article isn't written about how people should give feedback, it's for people who produce something (could be a website) and need to know what direction to move it in. In many cases just doing literally what people ask is not going to move it in the popular direction it needs to go in to be successful.

If you do want to look from an ocPortal perspective though, consider that every feature request we implement naturally leads to more feature requests, even though generationally we are quite a few steps in front of our competitors, and in terms of market share we are very small. Obviously there is something wrong there from a business angle – in many ways the article talks to the mistakes I have made in the past myself.

I've just re-read my post, and I think I wasn't great with my wording. If you read carefully I think what I say makes sense, but if you skim words it can come out wrong. Particularly:
The kind of people who give general feedback are the most engaged and thoughtful subgroup of users, a tiny minority. Therefore, these people speak for the minority, and the feedback is usually to add new features that will actually distract from more important objectives (…) and possibly risk creating bloatware

If you read very carefully you'll see I said distract from more important objectives, rather than that the feedback itself should not be actioned (at an appropriate juncture). I'm making a point about focus and methodology, rather than making any particular judgment on what should or should not be actioned. That's why I just said possibly risk creating bloatware, with emphasis on the possibly.
What I did not cover in the post was that we're very thankful for feedback, and the "tiny minority" I talk about is the minority that is most helpful in advancing ocPortal development.

While I totally understand the focus of the article, and I know you do appreciate feedback, its just that it comes across as a no-win situation for those providing the feedback.
Many people either give only negative feedback (people who want to drive positive change through criticism), or only positive feedback (particularly friendly people who like to thank developers). This makes it very hard to gauge satisfaction and success accurately. Personally, from a utility perspective, I actually dislike both: negative feedback is bad PR and the really glowing feedback that is often posted overlooks things doesn't help me.

Yeah I didn't word that clearly. What I'm really trying to say is that each presents challenges, but there is value in both – even though in the perfect world feedback would include both the positive and negative so that you can see things in proper context.

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